Mayor Don’s Update – March 4, 2021

Official Plan Review

The Township continues to plan for the future through the review of its Official Plan (OPR). Springwater’s Official Plan is a living document which needs to be updated to consider how and where growth can be best accommodated and ensure that the Plan continues to meet local needs, as well as the County of Simcoe’s Official Plan and Ontario’s Planning Act.  The revised plan will guide how the Township grows and changes over the next 20 years and provide guidance on housing, industry, retail and community amenities, as well as protect the natural environment and heritage features. We need your ongoing input during this process to understand the issues that matter to you.

Since 2016 we have been progressing through the OPR process. Phase I involved preparatory work including a Communications Strategy, Visioning Workshops, Growth Management Strategy, Discussion Paper, Public Open House and Statutory Public Meeting to provide further input and formally kick off the project. To encourage public awareness and input we also developed a questionnaire and communication through our website Official Plan Review section at www.springwater.ca/OPR under the Business and Development tab and then the Official Plan.

Our most recent public meetings on February 23 included an OPR Stakeholder Meeting and a Resident Stakeholder and Members of the Public meeting to provide updates on the OPR background reports,including the draft Population-Related Employment Market Study, the draft Intensification Strategy and the draft Bayfield Corridor Study. Meeting specifics were sent to 110 stakeholders who registered to participate, and details were broadcasted on the Township’s website. Twenty-two people actively participated by posing thoughtful questions and discussion regarding the boundaries of the Bayfield Street Corridor, traffic flows, the greenbelt special policy area surrounding the City of Barrie, architectural controls, and clarification on intensification. It was great to see our residents and stakeholders actively involved in the process.

We are now in Phase II of the OPR, which is the Policy Drafting Phase, where the background reports below are considered in detail as part of a visioning exercise. Input and comments arising from this phase will form the initial draft of the Official Plan. There will then be another statutory Public Open House for review and comment and then finalization of the draft Official Plan, another Statutory Public meeting for input and comment and then final review and approval of the Official Plan by Council.

Throughout 2020, the project team has drafted three major background study reports related to the OPR which are available to review at the website link referred to above:

Population-Related Employment Market Study: The study purpose was to determine whether there is enough designated land within the Township to accommodate Population Related Employment (PRE) including mixed-use, commercial and institutional growth until the year 2031.

The Township’s urban settlement areas of Midhurst and Elmvale have more than an adequate supply of designated vacant PRE lands to 2031. Opportunities exist to potentially accommodate PRE uses within vacant building space in Elmvale and through development of underutilized lands within the Midhurst Bayfield Street Corridor. The supply of PRE lands within Midhurst is sufficient to accommodate demand, as well as to provide market choice of available sites for prospective PRE uses over the next 10 to 20 years.Presently there is a 17% vacancy rate compared to an ideal rate of 5% to 10% and this is in the downtown Elmvale area and the Midhurst Bayfield Corridor. The most significant opportunity for intensification is on lands designated for commercial/mixed-use within the Bayfield Street Corridor in the Midhurst urban area.

Intensification Strategy: This study identifies residential intensification opportunities to meet the requirements of the Simcoe County Official Plan and the Planning Policies of the Provincial Government. This includes identifying key strategic growth areas and the ability of the Township to service and develop them by considering a more diverse range of mixed housing options within intensification areas.

There is a 15% intensification target in the County of Simcoe Official Plan to 2031, within the built-up areas of Elmvale and Midhurst, excluding lands outside of the built boundaries.Undelineated built up areas\rural settlements boundaries include Centre Vespra, Snow Valley, Minesing, Anten Mills, Phelpston and Hillsdale. These are not considered delineated in the growth plan and are not considered to have potential for significant new growth.

The 2018 Growth Management Strategy projects the need to accommodate 777 units through to 2031 to achieve the 15% and presently, the delineated built boundary areas of Elmvale and Midhurst have supply potential of 77 units. The Intensification Strategy identifies the Midhurst Settlement Area, particularly within the Bayfield Corridor, as the focus for providing an additional supply for the other required 700 units and more. The consultant’s main recommendations to facilitate intensification include:

Developing the Bayfield corridor in Midhurst as a primary focal point for intensification within the Township;
Establishing policies that encourage and facilitate gentle intensification through the redevelopment of existing low-density properties;
Establishing policies to provide a framework for the division of estate residential lots within the settlement areas, subject to appropriate servicing;
Updating the Midhurst Transitional Residential designation to permit a greater variety of housing types than single-detached dwellings only; and,
Provide financial or regulatory incentives for intensification.

Bayfield Street Corridor Study: This study identifies opportunities as a key area of future intensification at the intersection of Bayfield Street/Finlay Mill Road/Snow Valley Road, including appropriate land uses mixing retail, commercial and residential uses. It reviews pedestrian and cyclist active transportation and time horizons for development. Urban guidelines are proposed, as well as appropriate vehicular access and parking locations.

The corridor is divided into three-character areas separated by environmental features. The first area of focus would be the street intersection, with 3 and 4-storey buildings proposed and above grade parking. Initial projections foresee development here of up to 950 residential units and 250,000 square feet of retail/commercial space. Parkland space is also included and the corridor contemplates on the wide tract of Bayfield street vehicular, pedestrian and cycling lanes and boulevard with a centre median as well, subject to negotiations with MTO to accomplish this.

The preliminary planning and urban design recommendations include developing Urban Design Guidelines for the Corridor, the urban road cross section incorporating active transportation that is appropriate and ensuring there is a minimum of 5% green amenity and parkette space in this urban area to accommodate the people living there eventually. Consideration of adjustments to the appropriate zoning bylaws will be part of the plan. Transportation and servicing of this area will be a priority.

We need your input:

Your input matters! As stated, the studies are on the website and outline important details about the possible future of Springwater. They are detailed and informative and readable. As we continue to move forward with this process, we need to hear about what is important to you and what kind of Springwater you want to call home in the future. We ask that you submit any comments on the draft reports and your ideas by emailing planning@springwater.ca by March 12, 2021, however, the Township will continue to accept comments throughout the OPRprocess after that date. Using these, we hope to finalize the Population-Related Employment Market Study, Intensification Strategy and Bayfield Corridor Study by March 26.

The Draft Official Plan will be ready by July and further engagement of stakeholders, the public and Council will occur over this summer. The final Updated Official Plan is targeted for this fall, with a statutory public meeting in December and Council adoption of the new Official Plan by the end of 2021.

Stay well and protect yourself and others against the ravages of COVID. Needles are coming…..